What’s driving your investment in renewables right now?
(May 2012) Entergy Louisiana starts construction on gas-fired power project; Virginia Commonwealth University and Dominion partner on a test site for efficient energy technologies; Burlington Electric Department selects Siemens for meter data management platform; IKEA commissions four Blink electric vehicle charging stations; Edison Mission Energy, TIAA-CREF and Cook Inlet Region Inc. form partnership, and others.
Barriers and breakthroughs to a smarter grid.
Technology is quickly making energy storage more economical and effective than ever before. But companies that wish to invest in storage capacity face a journey through a frustrating regulatory no-man’s land. Opening the gateway for storage to deliver smart grid benefits will require a more streamlined and coherent approach to regulating storage as utility infrastructure.
Making room on the local grid for small-scale PV.
For the first time, perhaps, the electric utility industry may need to keep track not only of peak load, but also of minimum load, as the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission reviews a proposal by the Solar Energy Industries Association to employ a new definition of minimum load under a new, relaxed threshold test that would govern eligibility for fast-tracking of applications by generation developers to interconnect new, small-scale solar energy projects to the local utility distribution grid.
Election politics almost killed a great idea.
Beacon Power filed bankruptcy last fall, amid a political firestorm sparked by Solyndra’s demise. But should the company have received a bailout, so it could continue operating until FERC’s new pay-for-performance rules take effect?
(April 2012) MidAmerican Energy awarded a contract to Siemens Energy to supply wind turbines for its 407-MW project expansion. American Electric Power began operating the 580-MW Dresden natural gas-fired combined-cycle power plant. Duke Energy and ChinaHuaneng Group signed a three-year agreement expanding their research cooperation to include coal and carbon capture and sequestration technologies. And others...
Can utilities put EV batteries in the rate base?
Thomas Edison once hoped to make a fortune in the auto business—selling electric cars. Of course it never happened; he and Henry Ford tried and failed to bring a low-cost electric car to market. They scuttled the project after investing $1.5 million toward the effort—more than $32 million in today’s dollars. Edison’s nickel-iron batteries just couldn't match the performance of Ford’s petrol-powered bang-bang.
Decommissioning and remediation of coal- and oil-fired plants.
As new EPA regulations drive companies to decommission older power plants, utilities face issues involving plant retirement and demolition. Some sites can host new power plants, but many can be better used for other commercial purposes. Thoughtful planning and decommissioning strategies can bring the greatest value from underutilized assets.
Renewable M&A lives on despite death of Treasury cash grants.
The U.S. Treasury cash grants for new renewable power projects expired at the end of 2011. These incentives, which were implemented under Section 1603 of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, helped to support continued capacity additions throughout the recession. The impending expiration of these grants caused a wave of merger and acquisition (M&A) activity during 2011 as developers and financiers rushed to get deals done and to begin construction in order to meet the Section 1603, 5-percent safe harbor threshold by the Dec. 31, 2011 deadline.
(March 2012) DTE Energy awards contract to URS; Exelon and Constellation reach an agreement with Electricite de France; Dominion and Lockheed Martin enter a joint marketing and development alliance; plus deals involving Nissan North America, CenterPoint Energy Field Services, Honeywell, Silver Spring Networks, and others.